Jean Paul Gaultier is a designer who represents stark change in fashion. He finds a way to make every look carry a story of its own, no catwalk needed to explain, no synthesis of looks to make the point, just the garment channeling his mind. Yet, every piece in the Grand Palais Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition in Paris seemed as if it could make up a single collection, a collection of his inner thoughts. Perhaps it is because his mind is so hauntingly wonderful that the exhibition fully realized his direction as a designer. He is most popularly known for the simple blue and white striped shirt, a look associated with the nautical aesthetic of pirates. Because of Gaultier, the blue and white striped shirt has been reinvented to become the emblem of modernity and the timeless sensibility of the Parisian. Gaultier does not leave it at its finite simplicity, he warps it to become a jacket hat or even, made fully in fur, a floor length gown. His “trademark” is the iconic bustier, the pointed and swirled bustier first realized on his teddy bear with his Grandmother’s bra and later caressing Madonna’s breasts on the runway.
Gaultier redefined beauty. He had models of all sizes, old, big, thin, tattooed, and transgender. He broke every boundary by embracing color and nudity to create a hypnotic sense of intrigue throughout his work. His clothing is stunningly outrageous. The more outrageous the more fun to gaze upon. There were three foot tall mohawks and beaded dresses outlining all of Paris on the petticoat, wedding dresses made to look like lips and outfits mixing Japanese design with old Parisian gothic style. Gaultier is a visionary. To be a designer who can achieve his level of masterpiece shows his feelings toward fashion. The clothes were not meant to be worn to feel rich or expensive but rather to envelope you into the sensibility of Gaultier: the extreme used to capture a fringe romanticism. The slashed tights and chains of his punk collection contrasted with his layered and beaded gowns shows how he incorporated and played off his love of peculiar beauty.
The exhibition at the Grand Palais could not have done his work any more justice. Each room was dedicated to an era shaped by his designs. The first room featured blue and white stripes, the second British punk, the next gowns, and the farther you walk into the exhibition, lingerie, outfits inspired by his travels, a large stairway screening his runway shows, to the final room, a room of wedding dresses. Every model in the exhibition had a face projected onto it, each model blinking and smiling, and if it was in the mood, carried out a conversation with you. The exhibition was gorgeously done and showcased his love of peculiar beauty that he has translated into his designs by redefining fashion.